Endothelial progenitor cells carrying monocyte markers are selectively abnormal in type 1 diabetic patients with early retinopathy

Gianpaolo Zerbini, Anna Maestroni, Alessio Palini, Gemma Tremolada, Rosangela Lattanzio, Silvia Maestroni, Matteo Rocco Pastore, Antonio Secchi, Riccardo Bonfanti, Chiara Gerhardinger, Mara Lorenzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) enter the systemic circulation in response to cues related to vascular damage and need for neovascularization. Thus, EPCs could become readily accessible informers of vascular status and enable the survey of vascular pathologies during preclinical stages. To identify EPC changes with biomarker potential, we investigated whether discrete EPC abnormalities were associated with early nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). Two EPC subtypes with different functions have been characterized to date - one solely committed to the endothelial lineage and the other carrying both endothelial and monocytic markers. We found that only the latter, colony-forming units (CFU)-Hill cells, manifested abnormalities in type 1 diabetic patients with NPDR compared with control subjects. The abnormalities consisted in an increased number of colonies formed in vitro and downregulation of the molecules that facilitate homing at sites of vascular injury. The abnormalities were absent in type 1 diabetic patients free of retinopathy and other complications, despite long diabetes duration, but were detected in some of the patients without clinical retinopathy after short diabetes duration. CFU-Hill cells are potential informers of diabetic microangiopathy but may be preempted from carrying out reparative functions if the molecular abnormalities compromise interactions with the damaged vascular wall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)908-914
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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